The events in this post follow on from and intersect the events of our time in Playa del Carmen.
It’s now two and a half months since we returned from Mexico and so, understandably, my enthusiasm for sharing our adventures is waning a little (but mostly because I’m bitter that I’m not on another holiday already) and some of the finer details of what we got up to fading in my memory.
Brevity is not my strong suit, as you all know – I was just going to bombard you with photos for this final installment of my Yucatan story, but that didn’t quite work out. However, WordPress tells me the word count of this post is roughly half that of my previous Mexico entry… so, win? Ok, let’s go.
Tulum was actually a fairly small Maya city, not as large or powerful as Chichen Itza or the nearby Coba. Most of its importance in Maya times as well as its attraction as a tourist spot today was and is due to its location by the sea.
Around the 1200s to 1400s, it served as the main port for Coba and marked the convergence of trade routes from all over Central America… Today, it makes for a pretty stunning and romantic landscape.
Most of Tulum’s structures have been pretty well restored which, as you would know if you’d read my Chichen Itza post, isn’t something I like, as when I visit “ruins”, I expect them to be at least somewhat in ruins.
However, I have to admit the whole effect was pretty scenic, the white waves breaking upon the sandy beach below.
As with all the other sites, we drove ourselves to Tulum, 45 minutes down the coast from Playa del Carmen, and arrived bright and early before almost all the other tourists. Besides the beautiful views, the other advantage this site had over Chichen Itza was that touts were not allowed inside the boundaries of the site itself and had to set up their shops and stalls just outside.
Iberostar Tucan & Quetzal Resort
We returned to Playa from Tulum to by about noon as it was a small site and without many other visitors and we were able to look around unhindered. Plus, it was pretty, but really not that historically interesting or significant.
After having lunch in town, we returned to the resort we’d checked into the night before to get ready for the wedding which we’d flown all the way from Australia for (or at least, provided us with the excuse to come to the other side of the world).
You might have gathered that I normally don’t like the idea of staying in all-inclusive resorts unless a) it’s only for a night or two, b) it’s a fairly small one without noisy kids, c) I’m pretty certain that there are good food options beyond family-style buffet dining and d) it’s pretty easy to get to town where the action is, preferably by walking. Unfortunately, Iberostar fit none of those criteria, and we only stayed there as that’s where the wedding was… however, fortunately, it had some cool things going for it which I didn’t all expect!
Firstly, it had a sort of rainforest theme and there was a forest sanctuary type area in the middle of the two-sided resort where native wildlife lived. Some of the animals also roamed the complex freely, so that you’d see peacocks wandering around near the lobby or outside your room on the lawn trying to mate with a peahen who was… less than interested. There were creeks and ponds where cute turtles lived, and you would cross a bridge overlooking said body of water to go to dinner. Pretty cool.
Secondly, the beach was really very nice.
Thirdly, the place was huge, so even though food options were scarce and low quality, at least you never felt like you were short on space. The Tucan side dwellers could easily wander over to the Quetzal side, and vice versa, and it would be a nice 10+ minute stroll, or more if you went through the rainforest to see the cute animals.
Fourthly, the wedding was just beautiful. Not only because I got to see a dear friend marry the love of his life but everything was just done so perfectly. Simple and cute, a little casual, yet elegant and pretty – it was a beautiful day, the beach pristine. The resort organisers did a great job, but mostly the success, I’m sure, was due to the lovely bride’s perfectionism and great taste.
For the sake of privacy, I haven’t put up proper photos of the wedding party, but you can see how picturesque the set up was. The groom is a ginga – I’m pretty sure that’s what the orange side was for!
The red United mat? I guess red carpet makes everyone feel important, but for this couple, this has a deeper meaning. This particular carpet was painstakingly obtained through auction and I believe symbolises one of their first milestones together. No pun intended.
That atmosphere was one of… mirth. (Why does no one use that word anymore? How else can I describe it?) All the guests were in a light-hearted, unrestrained vacationing mood. I guess that’s the major advantage of destination weddings – everyone is away from home and their daily worries, able to throw all their energy into helping the couple celebrate. We were helped along by swag bags put together for every guest containing keep cups for the beach, drugs to fight hangovers, after sun remedies, rubber duckies and other goodies.
Due to plans to head out to Coba early the following day, we couldn’t stay late to party with the other revelers, and besides, to be honest, as introverts (and after an active day in the heat) we were a little drained by everyone’s high spirits.
To get to Coba from Playa, one has to first drive down to Tulum, then turn inland and take a less well maintained road north-east for another 45 minutes.
Coba was my favourite out of the Mayan sites we visited during this trip for a few reasons. Firstly, it wasn’t so well restored as Chichen Itza or Tulum. Secondly, it wasn’t so overrun with tourists – in fact, we barely saw a soul the entire time we were there, which was helped in part by point three; the place was huge! The built up area of Coba covers some 80 square kilometres and if we hadn’t hired bicycles (awesome point number 4), it could have taken us days to explore the site.
Lastly, I loved Coba because of the Nohuch Mul pyramid, which with its 42 metres of precariously steep and worn steps is the second highest structure of the whole Mayan world (and certainly the tallest in the Yucatan), and best of all you could still climb it!
A special mention must go to the adorable squirrel I found leaping from tree to tree. Too bad it was to quick for me to capture it in action.
Riding our slightly rickety hire bikes through the canopied paths of the forest, surrounded by trees and bush and not a single human in sight, was indescribably delightful – I just felt giddy with exhilaration. We sped up or slowed down whenever – it didn’t matter. It had romantic potential too – if only I’d thought to pack a picnic lunch! We were away from harsh Yucatan summer sun, and even the mozzies kept surprisingly distant.
And that concludes my travelogue for Mexico 2013. I shall be back with more pretty pictures from our next adventure, wherever that may be. In the meantime, I’m sure you will get very fat off my food-related blogging (if you listen to me at all, which you should).